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Ageism Against Women in Top Jobs Persistent, New Survey Says | Entrepreneur

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Julie O’Neill spent nearly three many years as a top anchor for Cincinnati’s WCPO news station, but early last 12 months, her profession took a gut-wrenching turn.

Despite her longtime coverage of the Cincinnati Bengals, O’Neill was omitted in favor of a younger, male colleague to report on the team’s 2022 Super Bowl appearance. Soon after, she said, she began receiving complaints from the station’s news director a few decline in her performance. Puzzled, she began recording footage of her segments, hoping to discover and proper any stumbles. The exercise left her only more confused. Her delivery seemed as strong as ever, she told me, and even her coanchor was perplexed by the feedback. Tensions between O’Neill and her bosses continued to escalate, she said, finally reaching a head in September when she was called into a gathering with management. In the meeting, O’Neill was told she would not be cohosting the network’s morning show and that her station contract wouldn’t be renewed after December 31. O’Neill recalled the station’s general manager citing her recent on-air mention of a colleague’s recovery from COVID-19 — which the colleague had posted openly about on social media — because the “disrespectful” final straw.

“Until all of the criticism began, I had had stellar performance reviews and was never, ever accused of being disrespectful or making people uncomfortable,” O’Neill said. At the time, she had a sneaking suspicion that her age and gender may need played a job within the abrupt turn of events, nevertheless it was an older, male mentor who made her see the connection as crystal clear.

“He said to me, ‘When do you switch 55, Julie?'” she said. “And I said, January 9. ‘That’s interesting,’ he said. ‘Nine days after your contract was up, you were put out of the 18-to-54 demographic'” — the goal age bracket for network-TV ad buys. (WCPO didn’t comment on Julie’s dismissal, but leadership has said, “We don’t agree with many statements which have been made. As usual, we do not discuss personnel matters publicly.”)

The station’s leadership never said that O’Neill’s age was a think about its decision-making. But she believes they didn’t should. In her view, “they made it clear that I used to be not the longer term,” she said.

No ‘prime’ age for ladies

O’Neill’s account seems shocking but could also be an all-too-familiar story for many ladies in leadership roles. A recent, qualitative survey of 913 women across 4 disparate industries — law, faith-based nonprofits, higher education, and healthcare — found a dismaying amount of age-based discrimination against women in top jobs. The research, recently published in Harvard Business Review, found that most of the women surveyed reported being on the receiving end of age-related judgment that implied they were unfit for the job.

Perhaps essentially the most discouraging finding of the survey was that the ageist behavior wasn’t just directed toward one age cohort. For women under 40, ageism often showed up in the shape of “role incredulity” — higher-ups (who were incessantly, if not exclusively, men) registering surprise at their seniority, sometimes even calling them by condescending nicknames comparable to “kiddo” or meting out pats on the top. (Previous studies have also found that girls of childbearing age are routinely omitted for jobs or promotions because they may turn into pregnant.) Women over 60, however, reported being ignored altogether, their skills neglected and their experience discounted in favor of “fresh, recent ideas.” Many of the ageist dismissals echoed across age groups: Women who were up for jobs, promotions, or bonuses were told they either lacked experience or had an excessive amount of of the improper kind. Many also described hearing ageist remarks used to discredit other women who were up for skilled opportunities.

When you get a lady in her 40s or 50s who has progressed in her profession and might be more willing to talk her mind, I feel it’s intimidating to the insecure men in our workforce.

Amy Diehl, a gender-equity researcher and considered one of the coauthors of the brand new report, wasn’t surprised by the prevalence of ageism against the oldest and youngest women she and her colleagues surveyed. But she was shocked by the extent to which middle-aged women like O’Neill reported experiencing age-related discrimination at work.

“When men get to their 40s or 50s, they’re considered to be within the prime of their careers,” Diehl told me. Women of the identical age, nonetheless, proceed to bump up against “age-related constraints.”

It is a grim irony that successful women in midlife, particularly, are so often made to feel as if they can be difficult or distractible while at the peak of their skilled prowess. The researchers imagine that this happens precisely because middle-aged women feel they’ve less to lose by flexing their hard-earned expertise. Their confidence, and competence, makes them threatening.

“When you get a lady in her 40s or 50s who has progressed in her profession and might be more willing to talk her mind, I feel it’s intimidating to the insecure men in our workforce,” Diehl said. “They would somewhat diminish that woman, not promote her, keep her in her place. It’s not that they don’t desire her within the workplace — they simply want her in a job that is going to support the lads within the workplace and never compete with them. And actually not give them a contrary opinion.”

In the survey, middle-aged women described a wide selection of put-downs from higher-ups: concerns about “menopause issues” or vague accusations of being “difficult to administer.” Others reported being told that their phase of life put them prone to “family-related issues” getting in the best way of their job performance — a line of commentary directed against skilled women across ages.

“You’re too young after which, in a moment in time, you are considered to be too old,” Diehl said. “There really isn’t any sweet spot for ladies.”

‘Call it ‘sexism’ because that is what it’s’

While age discrimination itself may not strike many as surprising, the actual fact firms are so blatant about it’s shocking, especially in light of recent cultural shifts. Over the past several years, activist movements comparable to #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have helped raise mainstream public consciousness over systemic sexual harassment and racism. “Diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusivity” have entered the lexicon of corporate accountability. Companies have dutifully launched workplace-sensitivity seminars and adjusted their hiring practices; some have even arrange entire human-resources departments dedicated to DEI. Whether or not these initiatives have proved successful in leveling the skilled playing field, a majority of American staff say they appreciate the hassle.

Even as businesses have invested in constructing fairer work environments — or have, on the very least, invested in elaborate lip service to the cause — age discrimination against women staff not only persists but in addition is usually perpetuated in plain view. Gendered ageism may even be the last acceptable type of workplace discrimination — and that is even truer for ladies who should not white or who encompass multiple marginalized identities.

The concept of aging is something that’s socialized into our fabric to be acceptable to indicate.

How did this occur? The likeliest answer can be the only. Age is universal; everyone has one. Just because it’s turn into commonplace to debate generational differences and compare the (real or perceived) attributes of people that grew up in numerous eras, people feel generally OK discussing age out within the open.

“The concept of aging is something that’s socialized into our fabric to be acceptable to indicate,” Amber L. Stephenson, one other coauthor of the study, told me. “We are only so rather more comfortable taking shots at different age stages or profession stages, as compared with other kinds of bias.”

But the researchers are emphatic that in our appearance-focused, age-obsessed society, using a lady’s age against her in an expert setting is a mask to precise the gender biases we’ve yet to really shake as a culture.

“Instead of ‘gendered ageism,’ we are able to just call it ‘sexism’ because that is what it’s,” Diehl said.

Leanne M. Dzubinski, the third coauthor on the study, agreed: “When we put it together — that so many ladies, irrespective of what age they’re, are at all times being told that they are not the fitting age — then what we see is it’s actually just an excuse for sexism, period.”

‘They would somewhat keep her in her place’

Research has found repeatedly that the general public imagination of a “leader” stays static — and regressive. Men are more likely than women to be perceived as leadership material and overwhelmingly more likely than women to carry leadership positions across virtually every industry.

This shouldn’t be to suggest that every one is hunky-dory for men within the workforce. Much has been written in regards to the regular decline in employment amongst 25- to 54-year-old American men, and up to date surveys have also indicated that men aren’t proof against workplace ageism. In one 2019 poll of 400 US staff ages 40 and older, more men than women reported experiencing or witnessing age discrimination on the job. Research has also found that older job seekers face age discrimination no matter gender, despite a 56-year-old federal law that purportedly protects against older-age discrimination in employment. And, as at all times, race and identity stigmas play a big role in predicting whether women can be hired, promoted, or recognized for his or her achievements.

It’s undeniable that workplace age discrimination occurs across gender lines, however the qualitative experiences surfaced by Diehl, Stephenson, and Dzubinski help paint an image of how an open culture around age discrimination can ultimately find yourself fueling good, old-fashioned sexism. The researchers urge women on the receiving end of superficial or immaterial workplace criticisms to acknowledge that age-related feedback — or negative character-based appraisals comparable to “being difficult” — usually tend to reflect on the shortcomings of their superiors than on their performance.

O’Neill, the Cincinnati anchor, offers herself as a living proof. After departing from WCPO, she refused to sign the nondisclosure agreement that may entitle her to a job severance package and, as a substitute, recently published a memoir about her profession. Its thirteenth chapter details her final jarring months on the news station where she’d worked for 27 of her 31 years in broadcasting. This summer, O’Neill filed an age discrimination lawsuit against her former employer. Its allegations include her account of her termination and the lead-up to it. When asked to comment, the station said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

“People might take a look at my experience and say, ‘It’s not personal. It’s just business,'” she told me. “I say all business is personal since it involves people. And possibly that sounds slightly idealistic, but I do not care. That’s the fantastic thing about being 55.”

Kelli María Korducki is a journalist whose work focuses on work, tech, and culture. She’s based in New York City.

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